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NIST - National Institute of Standards and Technology

10/06/2020 | News release | Distributed by Public on 10/06/2020 12:50

Banking Reconceived

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People who know me always ask if I have a new, entertaining customer experience I would share. And while I have had several over the last year, none rose to the level of 'entertainment' of my very recent (and still ongoing) banking experience. Don't worry, I have not been scammed out of any money. This is merely a tale of amusement and frustration. And it is an experience where many of you will be able to feel my pain.

Background

I have had a savings account for many years at an FDIC-insured bank that offered relatively high yields. Like many of the high-yield banks, it is largely internet based with limited brick-and-mortar access. Recently, the bank has merged with a large national banking system; along with the 'many benefits' I was now being offered, they lowered the current interest rate on my account to 0.01%. After many years, the time had come to move my money.

I opened an account at my new bank with a small deposit. I then contacted my old bank online and had to establish an external link to my new account to make a financial transfer. That required supplying account information and then verifying the amounts of two small (under $1) transfers which my old bank made to the new account. No problem; after a couple of days that task was easily completed. I tried closing the old account online, but that failed. You needed an exact dollar amount and since interest is accrued daily, I couldn't predict the exact amount. And I could foresee inadvertently leaving a few pennies in the old account and then getting billed a low balance service fee.

Calling the Bank

So I took a deep breath and called the old bank. My first attempt resulted in an automated response that call volume was high and I should use online banking or wait for an extended hold. Having no choice, I waited. After about ten minutes, I got an automated message that waits were still long, please call back...good-bye!

I waited a day, took a deeper breath, and called back. Pleasant surprise, I was connected with a representative pretty quickly. I explained that I wanted to close my account and transfer the balance to the bank I recently established for external transfer on my account. The agent told me that I would have to verify my identity by answering a few questions. First question: in which of these cities did I attend college? Her multiple choices were all in the mid-west, where I never went to school. So, my answer was none of the cities. She said her system was very slow today and she was awaiting verification. After a few minutes, she told me I would have to be transferred to a verification specialist. That resulted in a ten minute hold.

Joy, the specialist, introduced herself and asked me first for the new bank routing and account number for the transfer. I told her it was the account already set up for external transfer and repeated the information. Then, I had to verify my home and mobile phone numbers. Next she emailed me a code that I had to repeat back to her. Having successfully passed that hurdle, Joy told me to hang up and she would call me back in a few minutes if everything matched up properly. If I didn't get a call, it meant I would have to go to one of their (not very convenient) physical locations and present identity evidence. Fortunately, about 5 minutes later she called back.

First, she asked me for her name. Luckily, I remembered it was Joy from her initial introduction. Then she asked me again for the new bank routing and account numbers, which I reminded her I had already answered and they were also on file in my profile. I just answered anyway to save time and anguish. Finally, she initiated the transfer, which should be reflected in my accounts at both banks in 2-3 business days. I asked for a confirmation number and was told they don't have confirmation numbers, but that everything was documented in my file. I asked how I can access that file and was told I could call back in 24 hours and ask them to confirm the transaction information back to me. I asked if I would have to verify my identity. Of course, for my protection, the answer was 'yes.' Total elapsed time since I spoke to the first bank representative, one hour.

It is now one business day later and I have not had the energy to call back. I am waiting for 2-3 business days to pass and check online.

Retail Banking Customer Satisfaction

I wondered if my experience was an anomaly. A little research turned up the J.D. Power 2019 U.S. Retail Banking Satisfaction Study. Some of the significant conclusions were:

  • A decade after the financial crisis, the industry's reputation has not yet returned to pre-crisis levels.
  • Customer perceptions are that service quality has improved over the last ten years, however customers perceive that bank reputation and customer-driven focus have declined.
  • Customer satisfaction with problem resolution and telephone customer service have declined.

Banking Reconceived

With that data in hand, I would like to recommend the introductory Baldrige Excellence Builder to my (former) bank. I can't think of any questions in the Customer Engagement item (Item 3.2) that they could answer without feeling embarrassed. Just to give a few examples:

  • How do you build and manage customer relationships?
  • How do you enable customers to seek information and support?
  • How do you determine customer satisfaction, dissatisfaction, and engagement?
  • How do you use voice-of-the-customer and market data and information?

While you ponder those questions for your personal service providers, I have one request to make. Wish me luck that my banking experience will now have a happy ending!

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